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Iraq parliament rejects PM’s security nominees

THE LEVANT – The Iraqi parliament voted down Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s nominees for defence and interior minister Tuesday, leaving the key positions unfilled as the country battles to regain ground from militants.

Parliament approved Abadi’s partial cabinet on August 8, ushering in his term as premier, but he asked for a week to present nominees for several ministries, including the security posts.

MPs rejected his candidates for the interior, defence and tourism ministers Tuesday, with some applauding after the no votes, though they did approve Mehsen Hassun as minister of water resources.

“I will consult with the (political) blocs and present the names when they are ready,” Abadi said at the end of the session.

Iraq’s last government also began without defence and interior ministers and the positions remained unfilled for the next four years, but Abadi said Tuesday that he wants to end the tradition.

“I am not ready… to administer these two ministries,” he said, adding that he did so during the past week with “great difficulty”.

Parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi announced that MPs would reconvene Thursday.

Appeal to Syrian rebels

It also urged Syrian rebels to keep up their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, warning them to “beware of being tricked by America… and thus being diverted from your path” and becoming its “pawns”.

Both Yemen-based AQAP, seen by Washington as the network’s most dangerous branch, and AQIM have rejected IS’s declaration of an Islamic caliphate in June and said they remained loyal to Zawahiri.

London-based Jane’s defence and intelligence agency downplayed the significance of the call, saying it “stops short of offering explicit support” for IS.

This is “yet another example of Al-Qaeda affiliates attempting to hold the middle ground” in the dispute between IS and Zawahiri, it said.

Meanwhile, Jane’s said similar statements of solidarity by other Islamist militant groups “will likely continue to surface in response to the new US air strikes… but they do not necessarily mean that support for the Islamic State itself is growing”.

AQAP has been linked to a string of attempted attacks on the United States in the past, including a botched bid to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

It has been a major target of the US “war on terror”, sustaining repeated deadly drone strikes on its leadership since 2002, matched only by those on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The group was born of a 2009 merger of its franchises in Osama bin Laden’s native Saudi Arabia and ancestral homeland Yemen.

AQIM, which has desert bases in northern Mali, has carried out attacks and abductions of Westerners in the sub-Saharan region of Sahel, as well as claiming attacks in Tunisia.

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